The Three Births

His birth in time transpired thus
At Beth’lem’s midnight manger
Where Joseph’s toil made all things well,
Kept maiden spouse from danger.

He forth from blessed womb did come
As light through crystal streaming,
Sans blight on Virgin’s radiance,
True God, a Baby beaming.

His birth in souls is oft renewed
Where water meets the Spirit,
The soul reborn is born in Him,
And He abides within it.

When Shepherds saw the Swaddling Boy
With Joseph and the Maiden
They understood the angel song,
God’s grace did them enlighten.

The ‘ternal birth ineffable,
B’yon time, and space, and death-shade,
In bosom of the Father-God,
Begets the Logos not-made.

God’s Image true, the Selfsame’s Word,
Begot by Mind’s cognition,
With Father Consubstantial, He
Defies man’s comprehension.

Now all three births in one great Feast
We Christians jubilating,
At midnight, dawn, and bright of day
Three Masses celebrating.

And these three Mysteries unite
Round theme of sacred birthing:
The Son of God, the Virgin’s Boy
Makes us the Father’s offspring.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Nativity between Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel (detail) source